I like having answers. I have spent a large portion of my life seeking them; in high school, where I often came up with answers I didn’t want to spend time finding; in college and grad school, where I spent a lot of money getting answers; and in independent study, where I can study and make up whatever answers I want!
The problem with liking answers, and one that I try to avoid, is the idea that we can tend to think that we have all of them. I believe it’s a tough thing to balance; on the one hand, we remember we are but dust (there’s a good junior high joke there). On the other hand, we are called to “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Pet 3:15, ESV) We need to understand and have answers, but at the same time we have to be humble enough to recognize our lowly position compared to God, or we risk speaking too proudly and needing God to knock us down a couple of notches (see Job 38 – really, go read it…it’s scary!).
My favorite non-biblical quote is from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, act 1, scene V:
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
No matter how much we study, how many answers we seek, and how much knowledge we accumulate, we will never get to a point where we have even the slightest grasp of the whole picture. Even today, when science and knowledge are at higher levels than at any other time in history because of broad educational opportunities, along with advancements and technologies like the internet (Thanks AlGore!), we have only scratched the surface of God’s creation. Yet today there are many who think that we are far beyond scratching the surface; we are in fact nearing a grasp on understanding how the entire universe works! They are looking for a grand unifying theory, or a god particle, or some other scientific explanation for everything, and they believe those explanations are within reach of places like CERN or MIT. Many who are obsessed with science, and it seems particularly those who are fixated on evolutionary biology and physics, believe they have the answers and that the debate is over (another shout out to AlGore on that one as well). These individuals would do well to learn from Shakespeare – there is more in our universe than we could ever dream of, and to say we think we have a grasp on how everything works (or really how anything works) is ridiculous.
So what can we do? We can talk about what we believe and what we have learned, but at the end humbly acknowledge that all truth has come to us from God and He is continually revealing things to us. We can stand firmly on those things He has said in His word, we can speak with confidence towards many of those things that have truly been proven through science or philosophy, and we can humbly state what we believe to be true while acknowledging that at times we may be (and are) wrong. As Agent K points out in the movie Men In Black,
Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.
While there may not be aliens living with us on earth, it is interesting to think about what we “know” and how it will be viewed in the future. Are we standing on God’s truth, or are we taking a stand on something less? Are we pushing something that we cannot know for certain, or are we humbly stating our beliefs along with our faith that God is in control and knows everything?
For years I’ve heard people taking hard stands on things like the end times, the age of our planet/universe, what exact year Jesus was born, and a whole pile of other things that I really don’t think we need to be taking such a hard line on. Do we have opinions on these things? Yeah! Can we discuss them? Sure. Are these things the focus of our lives or our personal theology? NO!
“…what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)
“Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecc 12:13)
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt 22:37-40)
None of these passages or numerous passages like them talk about ensuring you win the Theology Royal Rumble or that you pound your beliefs into others. What they do require is a searching of God’s Word in order to better understand what He has called each of us individually to do in order to worship and serve Him. We recognize that He is beyond our greatest imagination, that His workings are supernatural, that nothing we could dream up can come close to the truth of His awesome power and majesty, and that we can rest in the knowledge that He is in complete control of everything.